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00000176-770f-dc2f-ad76-7f0fad990000Monday at 5:44 pmEmail Sports at Large

It's Getting Uglier - And Not In A Good Way - For The Ravens

Austin Kirk

From the day the Ravens arrived here in Baltimore after the 1995 season, the team has been about the task of making themselves into model citizens. The players and coaches are omnipresent at charity functions and make regular appearances at hospitals and schools. The team has not only built a pair of high school stadiums, but has seen to it that every Baltimore City high school football and boys and girls basketball player has a uniform to play in. It’s hard to imagine any organization going to the lengths the Ravens have to ingratiate itself in a new location.

But a new ESPN investigation details a supposed coordinated attempt by Ravens management to obscure or cover up former running back Ray Rice’s conduct. The ESPN story, which aired on the channel Friday afternoon and was posted to the website thereafter, calls into serious question the extent to which the Ravens have been truthful with the public. The story, which goes on for more than 7,000 words, suggests that Ravens officials knew that Rice punched his then fiancée in an elevator of an Atlantic City casino within hours of the February incident. The ESPN report said the team’s director of security was told by an Atlantic City police officer who had seen a video of what had happened.

In addition, the story alleges that Rice’s criminal attorney told team president Dick Cass about the severity of the attack in April, and that Cass pushed Rice’s legal team to get the running back into a diversion program so that the video would never be seen. The story further charges that owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and Cass actively lobbied both the Atlantic County prosecutors and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to treat Rice with leniency.

But there’s more. The piece further alleges that while head coach John Harbaugh and director of player personnel George Kokinis wanted Rice to be cut from the roster even before they knew the extent of what happened, they were overruled by Bisciotti, Cass and Newsome. Finally, the ESPN story says that Bisciotti texted Rice the day after he was cut by the Ravens to thank him for his service and to offer him a job with the team after his football career is over. Rice reportedly saw the offer as an attempt to buy his silence. The entire ESPN account stands in opposition to Bisciotti’s contention that he and team officials only learned the full extent of what Rice did when the second video was made public by TMZ.

The club issued a point-by-point refutation of the ESPN story Monday, and Bisciotti held a 50-minute press conference, where, among other things, he denied there had been a cover up of any kind.

Last week, we wondered just how seriously the Ravens’ front office cared about the image their players projected, particularly those who had had run-ins with the law. But if even half of what ESPN alleged actually happened, then handing out turkeys and building stadiums won’t nearly be enough to remove the stench that will rightfully attach to the franchise going forward.